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Cochise Raptor Closures Update
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By Andy Bennett
From Tucson, AZ
Mar 19, 2011
Hey all, I've been in contact with the USFS lately to get the most up-to-date raptor closures for the Stronghold. Here's part of the email I received detailing the current closure. Rockfellow Complex and What's My Line/Cochise Dome remain the only closed features in the Stronghold. If you like the heat, it looks like the USFS will continue to entertain the possibility of lifting closures early according to falcon nest status.

Happy Climbing,

Andy Bennett


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Hi Andy,

Rick Gerhart forwarded me your request for updated Peregrine falcon closure information relevant to Cochise Stronghold for advertisement on Mountain Project. I am the acting area biologist and a climber myself, so I appreciate your efforts to educate visiting and local climbers on the closure and conservation of this sensitive bird.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service released a monitoring plan subsequent to the falcon's delisting (1999) which includes a monitoring period of 15 years on a 3-year cycle (with surveys in 2003, 2006, 2009, 2012, and 2015); from the Forest's perspective, it makes sense to continue to protect known nest sites until results from the monitoring period determine whether recovery has been sufficient to lift the closure. Preliminary results across Arizona from the 2006 and 2009 monitoring seasons do not substantiate lifting the closure at this time: azgfd.gov/w_c/Peregrine_Falcon.... The Forest has been working with local climbers to conduct periodic surveys in the Stronghold over the past decade, although I'm not well-informed about the results or success of the surveys other than to say that the closure has been temporarily lifted in past years earlier than June30th when surveys have determined that birds have fledged their nest sites. I'm attempting to organize surveys again this year, but can't honestly say if they will happen or whether the surveys will result in a temporary early lifting of the closure. Please get in touch with me if you'd like to stay informed of the surveys as they develop.


Effective this date and until further notice, Special Closure Order 05-189, dated March 18, 2002, is hereby amended as follows:

All persons are permitted access into the “Squaretop Area, which includes all existing rock climbing sites and/or domes (i.e. Squaretop and Lower Squaretop), Dragoon Mountains in Township 17 South, Range 23 East, the East ½ of the Northeast ¼ of Section 27 and the Northeast ¼ of the Southeast ¼ of Section 27.

All persons are permitted access into or through Rockfellow Dome Park, Dragoon Mountains (Township 17, Range 23 East, West ½ Section 26) except as follows:

Unless exempt with a permit specifically authorizing the prohibited activity, no persons may be upon any part of Rockfellow Dome Complex and/or Cochise Dome (aka What’s My Line Dome) by rock climbing or any other means of access, annually from March 1st through June 30th; and/or

Unless exempt with a permit specifically authorizing the prohibited activity, no overnight camping is permitted within Rockfellow Dome Park (Township 17, Range 23 East, West ½ Section 26) annually from March 1st through June 30th.

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By James DeRoussel
Administrator
From Tucson, AZ
Mar 19, 2011
Approaching Absinthe of Mallet in the snow.  Decem...
I have updated Cochise Stronghold to remove the old closure notice. Now, the most current closure info only shows up on the pages for WML (Cochise) Dome and the Rockfellow Group. Thanks for getting this information Andy.

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By Scott M. McNamara
From Tucson, Arizona
Mar 19, 2011
One Way Sunset
Thanks Andy! Well done.

Scott Mc

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By Andy Bennett
From Tucson, AZ
Dec 7, 2011
Update: I and another concerned climber recently met with USFS and AZGFD wildlife specialists to talk about the raptor closures. I was hoping to begin development of a more adaptive management process(a la Boulder Open Space)regarding raptor closures in SEAZ , beginning with the Rockfellows. Unfortunately, due to their structure, the domes don't seem to lend themselves to this idea, so a no-go there. However, the March 1st closure date for the Rockfellows was actually in dispute between the USFS and AZGFD (AZGFD thought it was February 15!), but we managed to secure March 1st as the official date [a little background here: AZGFD controls wildlife management in AZ, while the USFS is tasked with managing the land that wildlife lives on, and AZGFD often has the final say here].

Also unfortunate was the absence of a Catalina Ranger District representative. If you knew to look (and who does?), the District has added two new areas to their closures this year, apparently without any coordination with or even notice given to climbers. Please contact me if you would like to join a group to address the USFS about these issues. We are a primary user of the Catalinas and, as such, have the right to be included in these processes; the Coronado National Forest wildlife big-shot in attendance at the meeting agreed. I believe that the falcons have a right to thrive, and they are thankfully doing pretty well since the menacing days of DDT. But if climbing in an area in a certain year is not detrimental to falcon success, the closures should be flexible and responsive to this. Climbers can be the key to this process.

Some good news: at the end of our meeting, an AZGFD guy stopped in to let us know that they are about to sign a deal with the Anvil Ranch owners for unfettered climber/hiker access into Mendoza Canyon Sept-April each year. This is not sealed yet, but sounds promising.

Andy Bennett
Tucson, AZ

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By Bob
Dec 7, 2011
Andy Bennett wrote:
the District has added two new areas to their closures this year, apparently without any coordination with or even notice given to climbers.


Andy, what are the two new areas? When I look at their website, it looks like the same ole areas....

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By Larry
From SoAZ
Dec 7, 2011
Those same ole areas being...

Pusch Ridge Wilderness: Some portions closed January 1–April 30 (bighorn sheep).
Barnum Rock: Closed February 1–August 31 (peregrine falcon and other species).
Rappell Rock: Closed March 15–June 30 (peregrine falcon).
Raven Rock and Fortress: Closed March 15–June 30 (peregrine falcon).
Branching-Out Crag: Closed March 15–June 30 (peregrine falcon).
Panorama Wall: Some, but not all, routes closed March 15–June 30 (peregrine falcon).

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By Bob
Dec 7, 2011
Those are the areas...

We'll have to get Scott Mc to weigh in on this, but in the Coronado National Forest I do not think you can arbitrarily close an area due to Peregrine Falcons or any other animal. You must have a "closure order" which is a legally binding document accurately describing the area to be closed and the associated penalties. You cannot create new laws and levy penalties without following due process.

Based on dealing with the FS in the past, my impression is that these "closure orders" are difficult to create and are difficult to get rid of. I would be very surprised if there were two new closures. If so, I would want to see the legal documents which detail the area to be closed and what the associated penalties are.

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By Andy Bennett
From Tucson, AZ
Dec 7, 2011
To my knowledge, Branching Out Crag was recently added. At the meeting USFS/AZGFD appeared to include Mojo Wall as part of BOC, which it essentially is. They also think that Wheeler Wall should be closed for some reason, but this might be an identity issue.

Here's the link to the Catalina RD closures:

fs.fed.us/r3/coronado/forest/r...

Oh and by the way, if that's Bob H of climbaz.com, I was just about to send information from this meeting to you.

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By Bob
Dec 7, 2011
It is I, Bob H...

Those are the same ole closures. The bottom of the web-page has the last update as Thursday, 02 September 2010.

There is no closure order for Branching Out Crag. From what I understand, they meant to close it but closed Wheeler Wall instead. This is part of the difficulty associated with "closure orders". If they were easy to change, then they would have changed the Wheeler Wall closure to Branching Out Crag which is what they intended. Instead, they just post on their website that Branching Out Crag is closed - without having a closure order in place.

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By Andy Bennett
From Tucson, AZ
Dec 7, 2011
Thanks for the clarification Bob, Larry. So the BOC is the new Wheeler Wall. I should have guessed that they had to go through such lengths to get a closure order...

So I stand corrected, no new closures are in effect, just a formation name change that ostensibly places that closure's legitimacy in question.

Regardless, land managers may (will) continue to find more falcons and close more areas--whether or not falcons are actually nesting year to year--and potentially without climber involvement.

I'm not here to start legal arguments with the FS or climb on formations that are closed illegitimately. Nor am I here to debate the falcon's conservation status or the ethics of "what if". I'm posting here to suggest that we as users forge a better relationship with the Forest Service and Game and Fish from which we can both benefit.

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By NickMartel
From Tucson, Arizona
Dec 12, 2011
I also wanted to get involved in this but was advised by several significantly more senior members of the climbing community than I to let sleeping dogs lie. However, let me know if you need people to show up for something...

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By Andy Bennett
From Tucson, AZ
Dec 15, 2011
Hi Nick- I've been told the same thing. From my experiences working for the USFS, USFWS and USGS, I know that "letting sleeping dogs" lie means missing opportunities to create more workable partnerships and to potentially modify the processes. The agencies would often rather not change, and when they do have to, would rather not hear from us about it (try to find a USFS project document on something as trivial as raptor closures and tell me how long it takes you).

If we just sit back and let our public agencies do as they please, then grumble about everything after the fact, not only do we loose ownership in the process, we also shoot ourselves in the foot.

I may be joining the AZGFD/USFS next season for some raptor monitoring in the Catalinas, etc, and I need more climbers to join me. Let me know if you're game...

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By Andy Bennett
From Tucson, AZ
Dec 16, 2011
I hope that anyone interested and concerned about this will chime in. I am not trying to "step around the old guard" on this issue, but the feedback that I've gotten from them has been to basically shut up and ignore the USFS. I don't march to that drum. I've been fortunate to meet some of the agency personnel involved in this issue through my job, and I've found that they don't either.

Your feedback here would definitely be appreciated. I think a meeting may be in order (as Bob H suggested).

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By ClimbPHX.com
From Mesa AZ
Dec 16, 2011
Final Pitch on Birdland - 5.7 Red Rocks
@ Andy - Keep me updated on your interest in the Catalina's. Ironically I have visited Cochise during the ban JUST to see the raptors... They are beautiful demons of speed. It is true that we need to be more involved as time goes on, with advancements in technology we are learning so much more about species and they're cohabitation in urban settings. I'd be totally down to attend one of your forays...

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By BenJamN
Feb 13, 2013
"Pusch Ridge Wilderness: Some portions closed January 1–April 30 (bighorn sheep)."
has anyone ever seen a bighorn in the catalinas?

Thanks for the Update. Although wasn't it always Cochise Dome and Rockfellow group?

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By Alex McIntyre
From Tucson, AZ
Feb 13, 2013
In the traverse section, double rainbow in the bac...
BenJamN wrote:
"Pusch Ridge Wilderness: Some portions closed January 1–April 30 (bighorn sheep)." has anyone ever seen a bighorn in the catalinas? Thanks for the Update. Although wasn't it always Cochise Dome and Rockfellow group?

There hasn't been a bighorn sighting in 15+ years, if I remember right.

However, this thread is from 2011. You might want to look at the date next time.

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By BenJamN
Feb 15, 2013
has it changed?

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By Andy Bennett
From Tucson, AZ
Mar 6, 2013
My understanding is that there are no bighorns in the Cats right NOW, but they WILL be reintroduced (again) soon. The agency partnership has maintained the closure order for this eventuality, and probably because it's miles of red tape to change it anyhow.

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By Alex McIntyre
From Tucson, AZ
Mar 6, 2013
In the traverse section, double rainbow in the bac...
Andy Bennett wrote:
My understanding is that there are no bighorns in the Cats right NOW, but they WILL be reintroduced (again) soon. The agency partnership has maintained the closure order for this eventuality, and probably because it's miles of red tape to change it anyhow.

I have heard this as well. Seems a little futile considering they died out due to the suburban development into their habitat and that said development has not been reversed but actually continued.

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By Andy Bennett
From Tucson, AZ
Mar 6, 2013
Actually Alex, my understanding is that a disease, carried by domestic sheep and dogs (as an intermediate host), killed them off. That's why there are old signs prohibiting dogs from certain areas of the Cats.

-Andy

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By Alex McIntyre
From Tucson, AZ
Mar 7, 2013
In the traverse section, double rainbow in the bac...
Andy Bennett wrote:
Actually Alex, my understanding is that a disease, carried by domestic sheep and dogs (as an intermediate host), killed them off. That's why there are old signs prohibiting dogs from certain areas of the Cats. -Andy

That's actually really interesting. Unfortunately I see a lot of dog owners disobeying the signs, particularly on the Romero Canyon trail exiting Catalina State Park & the Pima Canyon trail. I'll be better about telling people with dogs they should turn around in these areas now that I know that bit of information.

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By 1Eric Rhicard
Mar 7, 2013
It is a good sized roof. Photo: Jimbo
That is interesting Andy as the Forest Biologist I spoke with said it was aggressive fire suppression that changed the habitat from more open to overgrown thus making it easier for lions to eat them. The fire policy was designed to save homes in the foothills. This conversation occurred about 3 years after the last sheep was seen. I would be interested to hear what the odds of survival is for these new sheep are.

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By Andy Bennett
From Tucson, AZ
Mar 11, 2013
I'm interested in their odds of survival too, Eric. Like most things in nature, it's usually not just one thing that's affecting something like population viability (inbreeding, interspecific competition, forage abundance, habitat change and loss, etc. could all be factors). I had heard from several reputable sources though that, in this case, the disease was the main factor. G&F seems to think that a reintroduction could lead to a stable population and I hope they're right-it would be really cool to have bighorn back in the Catalinas!

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By Geir
From Tucson, AZ
Mar 11, 2013
Toofast
I guess we'd better let those homes burn in the next wildfire and set up an STD clinic for those sheep. :)

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